Romantic desserts usually seem to involve chocolate, berries or both! Here are a few favourites, from my sister Diana’s famous chocolate cake, to a fresh tasting strawberry shortcake. I claim to be the first restaurateur to host a Valentine’s Day menu in Melbourne, more than 20 years ago in 1986. I searched my archives and found the original handwritten menu! You can read it in my book, The Cook’s Table, which also features a contemporary romantic menu suitable for any occasion with your loved one.
Diana's Fudgy Chocolate Cake
My sister introduced this winner to the family repertoire and she serves it with a dark chocolate ganache and thick cream.
Red, ripe strawberries are superb sliced and piled into a hot, buttered shortcake and eaten with thick cream. Click for recipe.
Chocolate Chiffon Tart
This superb recipe contains no butter or cream in the filling, and is much more enjoyable to eat than those tarts filled with pure ganache. Click for recipe.
Berry Sponge Cake
The addition of mashed strawberries to the icing & cream filling in Jackie's Mum's Sponge Cake (recipe in the Cook's Companion) gives this dessert a Valentine's hue. Bake in a heart shaped pan to reinforce the romantic message!
Fudgy Chocolate Mousse
Always use very good chocolate to make this recipe! I like to dust quenelles of mousse with the best Dutch cocoa and serve with chilled cream. Find the recipe in the Cook's Companion.
Honey Wafers with Bruised Raspberries
These fragile honey wafers are based on a recipe that appeared in Stephanie’s Seasons, where they were teamed with a banana cream. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Excess batter will store well, covered, in the refrigerator for several days.
The Cook’s Companion App and book.
The Cook’s Table
Just before I settle into 2018 I must recount a late highlight of 2017.
Is there anything better than joining dear friends and heading to a comfortable retreat, to really talk? To discuss weighty or frivolous topics as well as cook and eat and drink together. I did this just before Christmas and we ate at Annie Smithers’ du fermier in Trentham. The best rump steak with béarnaise and pommes lyonnaises I have ever eaten. A big claim, but true.
After lunch we were invited to view Annie and her partner’s newly-acquired property. It was jaw-droppingly amazing.
Its natural spring is already being used for kayaking and swimming. It is to be stocked with trout. The property has old sheds with massive hundred-year-old timbers, permitting secure storage of stuff and the garaging of a huge ride-on mower. It has several outbuildings that offer a multitude of possibilities, from classes to celebrations. The vegetable gardens are planted with the widest range of edibles, all growing well in the magnificent deep soil the colour of crumbled chocolate cake. The geese are pets, and are not for sale or consumption and have names. And there is a comfortable house and an ambitious landscaped garden plan for the future.
My tips – plan it well. Do as much shopping as you can right now, not two days beforehand.
Abandon unrealistic menus that would be achievable if you had three kitchen-hands and a refrigerator twice the size of the one you own. Just because it is Christmas most people can still only eat the same quantity of food as the day before. And the shops do not close for a month – maybe 2-3 days at most. There is a Christmas Day menu in my book The Cook’s Table with a rather fancy stuffed duck galantine (see above) which can be completed several days before Christmas Day. And this book includes enjoyable menus for different occasions and each one has a timetable intended to remove the stress.
To celebrate the festive season I am giving away six sets of my very popular Copper Plated Measuring Cups!
The set features four cups with measurement details displayed on gold-tone brass handles. Designed to nest for easy storage, they can also be hung, so they will always be within easy reach when you are whipping up your favourite recipes! Each set is valued at $39.95.
Competition closes midnight Tuesday 19 December, 2017.
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This competition is now closed and the winners have be notified by email.
Holiday memories are fading as I get back into the ups and downs of real life.
Required to follow a ‘white diet’ for five days because of a fairly standard medical procedure, I discovered just how devastatingly boring it is to exist on white bread, poached chicken or fish, and eggs. All perfectly delicious ingredients if cooked with herbs, and accompanied by savoury vegetables, salads and excitingly spicy side dishes. I found I was happy with a poached or boiled egg for breakfast (I did look longingly at the spinach, or the parsley), but day after day a white bread cheese sandwich, and a plainly steamed or poached piece of fish with a boiled potato, kept me alive but not delighted. It was only five days and I reflected on those who do not have my usual options, or even those who choose these options.
After listening to a podcast on BBC Food I bought a copy of First Bite – how we learn to eat by Bee Wilson, and found it fascinating. It did confirm some of my own most strongly-held beliefs. Firstly that eating is a learned behaviour and as such eating habits can be changed. And that change is most likely as a result of example, enthusiasm and patient exposure to good food. (Just as we are doing with the Kitchen Garden Foundation movement).